Superfund Scuffle Sparks High Court Review

From 1960 to 1989, Brown & Bryant Inc. operated an agricultural chemical distribution facility on a 4.7-acre parcel of land in Arvin, Calif. Over the course of those three decades, chemicals from the facility contaminated a pond on the property and leaked into the surrounding groundwater.

When the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (CDTSC) discovered the mess, it undertook an extensive environmental remediation that cost $1.3 million. Then it started looking for culpable parties to help foot the bill. But Brown & Bryant was nowhere to be found. The company had gone out of business.

Shifting the Burden

While CERCLA doesn't specifically define "arranger," most courts have held the term only encompasses those parties with some connection to the polluting activity, such as transporting the contaminating substance to a disposal site. The 9th Circuit's reading expands "arranger" to include parties that sell a hazardous product that later drips, leaks or spills in any way.

Adele Nicholas

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